Skip to main content

Full text of "Historical outline of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America and in particular of the Parish of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in the city of Toronto"

See other formats

on tho occasion of the 

of the 
of the 

Toronto, Ontario 

odi *io 



Because only about tvrenty-five persons responded to 
the appeal of the editorial section of the Jubilee Committee 
of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Saviour for 
subscriptions to an English edition of the Jubilee publication, 
it was found impossible to finance such an edition. Therefore, 
the chairman of the editorial section has translated into 
English the principal article of the Jubilee publication and 
includes it with his compliments in this copy of the Russian 


Leonid I. Strakhovsky, 

rnoqesT anoa'i; 

ii'-:-i-J ■:■'. "■.•'0 a«>/..rrft;T, 





Leonid I. Strakhovsky 

The Russian Orthodox Church on the continent of North America 
was founded in Alaska in 1794. In that year, acceding to the request of 
I. Golikov and G. Shelikhov, directors of the Russian-American Company, 
the Holy Synod in St. Petersburg appointed a mission composed of ten 
monks from the monastery of Valaam on Lake Lagoda who had had experience 
in missionary work among the Karelian and Finnish people. This mission, 
headed by Archimandrite Joasaph, arrived on the island of Kodiak near 
the shores of Alaska, then the headquarters of the Russian-American 
Company, on the 5th of October, 1794. Besides tending to the spiritual 
needs of members and employees of the Russian-American Company as well 
as other trading people, the fathers from Valaam started energetically 
to spread the Christian faith among the heathens of Alaska and of the 
neighbouring islands. Their work was crowned with success, since during 
the first five years they converted to Orthodox Christianity 6,740 
heathens and married in church ceremony 1,544 persons. On the whole, 
this missionary work proceeded peacefully, but in 1795 Father Juvenal, 
an ordained monk, met with a martyr's death. Having baptized over 700 
people on the mainland of Alaska as well as all the inhabitants along 
the Kenay Bay, Father Juvenal proceeded to Lake Iliamna, where he was 
killed by the local heathen population. 

The growth of Orthodoxy in Russian America came to the notice 
of the Holy Synod, and in 1799 it was decided to elevate the mission t* 
a diocese. The chief of the mission. Archimandrite Joasaph, became 
bishop-designate and proceeded to Irkutsk in Eastern Siberia to be eon» 
secrated. On the return journey, however. Bishop Joasaph was lost in 
the waters of the Pacific Ocean together with the ship "Phoenix," on 
board which he was a passenger. But the work begun by him was not lost, 
principally because of the unceasing efforts of the other clerics, parti- 
cularly of Father Herman, a member of the original group of missionaries, 
and later on of His Grace Innokenty, Archbishop of Eastern Siberia and 
Alaska, who arrived in Alaska as a young priest in 1822 and who was ele- 
vated after forty-five years of service there to the chair of Metropolitan 
of Moscow. Metropolitan Innokenty is the real Apostle of Orthodoxy in 
Russian America, During his tenure of office there a church was erected 
in Fort Ross near San Francisco, at that time a Russian possession, and 
a parish established which remained in existence even after the sale of 
Fort Ross in 1841, This parish became the nucleus of the second phase 
of the expansion and development of Russian Orthodoxy in North America, 

After the sale of Alaska to the United States of America in 
1867, the Alaskan diocese continued its missionary and cultural activity 




in North America. It is interesting to note that it was upon the insist- 
ence of Archbishop Innokenty that, in the treaty of sale, a clause was 
inserted under which all land, churches, chapels and other church build- 
ings remained the property of the Russian Orthodox Church. It was then 
that the Russian Imperial Government decreed to pay yearly for the main- 
tenance of the Alaskan diocese one per cent of the sum obtained from the 
sale of Alaska, that is, $72,000 annually. This sum represented the 
financial basis of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America up to the 
bolshevik revolution. 

In 1870 the Holy Synod decided to transfer the Archbishop's 
see from Sitka in Alaska to San Francisco because a large number of Rus- 
sians had emigrated from Alaska to California where the existing Russian 
parish included also Serbians and Greeks, However, the see retained the 
title of "Alaska and the Aleutians." Simultaneously, Rt. Rev. John 
(Mitropolsky) , Bachelor of Divinity of the Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy, 
one of the foremost Russian churchmen of the time, was appointed to the 
new see. The difficulties of transferring the seat of administration 
of the diocese with its archives and ecclesiastical institutions from 
Sitka to San Francisco were enormous. Therefore, it was only two years 
later that Bishop John was able to take up his residence in San Francisco, 
at which time the church there was elevated to the rank of a cathedral. 

At that time Bishop John had under his jurisdiction, besides 
Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, and California, also a parish in New York 
which was founded in 1870 and whose first pastor was Father Nicholas 
Bierring, a native of Denmark and formerly professor of philosophy and 
history of the Roman Catholic Seminary in Baltimore, who joined the Rus- 
sian Orthodox Church because of his disagreement with the dogma of the 
infallibility of the Pope. In this church in Nev; York the liturgy was 
performed, in turn, in Church Slavonic and in English, and the English 
services attracted a attendance of Ame3ricans. 

Father Nicholas Bierring, who had wide connections in American 
society of the time, counting among his personal friends, for instance, 
the President of the United States, General U. S. Grant, acquainted the 
people of the United States with Russian Orthodoxy, not only through per- 
sonal contacts but also through the pages of "The Journal of the Eastern 
Church," which he published in English. The Episcopal Church in the 
United States became particularly interested in rlussian Orthodoxy and 
this led to the establishment of friendly relations between the two 
Churches, which continue happily to this day. 

In 1879 Bishop John was recalled to Russia and was succeeded 
by Bishop Nestor (a former naval officer by the name of Zakkis of Latvian 
descent). He bought a house with large grounds at 1715 Powel Street, 
which housed the diocesan chancery, the bishop's residence, and a paro- 
chial school. Soon a large and imposing church was built on the grounds. 
However, Bishop Nestor lost his life in 1882 by drowning in the sea not 
far from the shore of Alaska during a visit to the parishes in that part 
of his diocese. 


Following this, the American diocese remained without a head 
for almost eight years, and it was only in 1889 that Abbot Vladimir 
(Sokolovsky), who had been a member of the Russian Orthodox mission in 
Japan, was appointed to San Francisco as Bishop of Alaska and the 
Aleutians. During his brief administration of the North American mis- 
sion (he was recalled in 1891), Bishop Vladimir successfully negotiated 
in 1890 the reunion with the Russian Orthodox Church of the Uniat parish 
of Mnneapolis with its pastor, Archpriest Alexis Towt. This was an 
important beginning, because from then on througii the labours of Father 
Alexis and his followers, many of the Uniat parishes rejoined the Russian 
Orthodox Church. 

Bishop Vladimir was succeeded by Bishop Nicholas (1891-1898) 
who later became Archbishop of Warsaw, member of the Imperial Council, 
and Knight of the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky with Diamonds. During 
his administration the Russian Orthodox Church became firmly established 
in the United States of America. More than 26 new parishes were created, 
many brotherhoods and other religious associations were formed, the 
Orthodox Welfare Society was established, a missionary school was founded 
in Minneapolis, and a Russian printing office opened in Ssin Francisco 
which published the "American Orthodox Messenger" and the newspaper 
"Light," both created by Bishop Nicholas. The celebration of the cen- 
tenary of Russian Orthodojqy on the North American continent in 1894, 
and of the centenary of the birth of Bishop Innokenty, the Apostle of 
Alaska, in 1896, brought to the attention not only of the Mother Church 
and of the Russian people, but also of the American authorities and of 
the American people, the work of the Russian Orthodox Church in North 

Bishop Nicholas was succeeded by Bishop Tikhon (Bellavin), 
future Patriarch of All Russia, \vho was the first of the bishops to bear 
the title of Archbishop of North America. During the nine years 
of Bishop Tikhon' s administration (1898-190?) the Russian Orthodox Church 
in North America spread and grew in strength, thanks to his energy and 
constant labours as exemplified in his many trips through his archdiocese, 
which extended from San Francisco to New York and included Alaska and 
later Canada. Dviring one of these trips to Alaska he made a perilous 
crossing on foot over the Klondike region, which lasted six days, in 
order to visit a distant mission. In 1900 a separate diocese of Alaska 
was established upon Bishop Tikhon' s representation. In 1902 the Cathe- 
dral of St. Nicholas, in Russian architectural style, was built in New 
York with funds collected over all Russia upon his initiative. The 
following year the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was built in Chicago. 
In 1904 a new diocese was created for the needs of the Syrian and Arab 
parishes, at the head of which was placed Archimandrite Raphael (Avavini) 
with the title of Bishop of Brooklyn. Finally in 1905 Bishop Tikhon 
opened the North American Orthodox Seminary (in place of the missionary 
school) in Minneapolis for the training of clergy from among native 
Americans of Russian origin, and the archiepis copal see was transferred 
from San Francisco to New York, where it ranains to this day. This transfer 


from the West to the East was motivated by the fact that at the begin- 
ning of this century. Orthodox immigrants from Russia and Austria-Hungary 
settled principally in the eastern part of the United States, and there- 
fore the concentration of Orthodox faithful had shifted from the Pacific 
coast to the Atlantic coast. It was on tlie 14th of September, 1905, 
that Archbishop Tikhon finally took up residence in New York. Prior to 
this he was able, not without difficulties, to bring into his archdiocese 
a number of Orthodox and Uniat parishes which had been fonned in Canada. 
He was the first Russian bishop to visit Canada. 

The situation in Canada was complicated. The most compact 
group were the Dukhobors, who had abj\ired and were fighting Orthodoxy, 
Then there v>rere the Uniats and here and there small settlements of 
Orthodox faithful. After the reunion with Orthodoxy of the parish of 
Father Alexis Towt in Minneapolis, Orthodoxy gradually spread from the 
state of Minnesota to the province of Manitoba. Later on, through 
individual settlers, it moved from the eastern states of the United 
States into Ontario and Quebec, and from the far western states into 
Alberta and British Columbia. But the parishes which were established 
often had no permanent pastors and church life among the Orthodox set- 
tlers in Canada was at a low ebb. In 1903 there appeared in Canada a 
self-appointed bishop and metropolitan. Seraphim. He was a fonner priest. 
Father Stephan Ustvolsky, who received by fraud from Patriarch Melety 
of Antioch a document purporting to elevate him to the episcopal rank. 
Later, when apprised of this fraudulent act. Patriarch Melety announced 
officially tlrkt the document, written in Russian, v:hich he had signed, 
had been presented to him, who did not know Russian, as an expression 
of Patriarchal blessing for missionary work in Canada. Nevertheless, 
the false Bishop Seraphim obtained a considerable following among the 
uneducated and almost illiterate Orthodox settlers in Canada and went 
so far as to ordain to priesthood about a dozen people, including one 
bigamist. In 1904 Archbishop Tikhon visited Canada in the company of 
Archpriest Constant ine Popov, who had previously organized some Ortho- 
dox parishes in Manitoba among the settlers from Bukovina. Archbishop 
Tikhon vigorously attacked the followers of the false Seraphim, bap- 
tized children formerly baptized by priests of the Seraphim sect, 
married many of those illegally married by the same kind of priests, 
and personally visited all the parishes, even those where there was 
neither church nor even a chapel. During this trip he met in Winnipeg 
a Uniat student of theology, Y. Sechinsky, who expressed his desire to 
join the Russian Orthodox Church and to work among the Orthodox people 
of Canada. Consequently, after a period of study, Sechinsky was ordained 
a priest and appointed pastor of the parish in Winnipeg with jurisdiction 
over all Orthodox parishes in Manitoba. Soon thereafter the Seraphim 
heresy lost its ground and Seraphim himself disappeared. In this way 
Canada became a part of the North American archdiocese. During the nine 
years of Archbishop Tikhon' s administration, nine Uniat parishes in 
Manitoba and Alberta, anl 23 in the United States, rejoined the Mother 


The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 destroyed the cathedral 
and the church house. This was a great blow to Archbishop Tikhon, who 
liked the San Francisco parish so niuch that vrtien he moved to New York 
he left some of his sacerdotal ganiients there in order to facilitate his 
liturgical service during his many trips to the West coast. But these 
garments perished in the fire which followed the earthquake. Luckily, 
as if foreseeing the future. Archbishop Tikhon, before his departure 
from San Francisco in 1905, bought a lot of land in the then best part 
of the city. Thus, after the earthquake there began on this lot the 
erection of a new cathedral with funds collected not only from the North 
American archdiocese but from all over Russia, to which Empress Alexandra 
contributed 1,000 rubles. But the construction of the cathedral was 
completed only in 1909, already after the departure of Archbishop Tikhon 
from North America. In the belfry of the new cathedral was installed 
the big bell which had been cast for the destroyed cathedral in memory 
of the miraculous escape from death of the Imperial family on the 29th 
of October, 1888, and which was found intact in the hot ashes after the 
earthquake . 

But in the same year of 1906 which marked the tragedy of San 
Francisco, Archbishop Tikhon could rejoice when blessing the first Rus- 
sian Orthodox monastery in North America founded by him in honour of 
St. Tikhon Zadonsky, his patron saint, in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, 
to which was adjoined an orphanage for boys. At the beginning of the 
following year, 1907, upon the initiative of Archbishop Tikhon, there 
was convened in Maifield, Pennsylvania, the first Council of the North 
American Russian Orthodox Church. Soon after this Archbishop Tikhon 
was recalled to Russia and appointed Archbishop of Yaroslavl, but the 
memory of him in North America is alive to this day and he himself, even 
after his elevation to the Patriarchate of All Russia, remembered with 
affection to his very death the years which he had spent on this conti- 

Archbishop Tikhon' s successor was another great Russian church- 
man, who was to spend most of his life in North America. He was Bishop 
Platon (Rozhdestvensky), first vicar of the Kiev archdiocese. Archbishop 
Platon arrived in New York on the 18th of September, 1907. One of his 
first measures was the appointment of Abbot Arseny to Canada as adminis- 
trator and supervisor with residence in Winnipeg. But Bishop Platon' s 
main work was the preservation for Russian Orthodoxy of thousands of 
Carpatho-Russians who v^ere being enticed into the Uniat Church by the 
first Uniat bishop of America, Stephen Ortynsky, who arrived in New York 
just a week before Archbishop Platon. Together with Archpriest Alexander 
Nemolovsky, whom he called his "right harxi," and whom he consecrated two 
years later as Bishop of Alaska, Archbishop Platon appeared at numerous 
open meetings questioning the veracity of the arguments of ^he Uniat 
bishop and spreading the true word of Orthodoxy, as the result of this 
llllAty, du?ing the seven years of his tenure of office 57 ^^J-P^tho- 
Russian mrishel in the United States and 15 in Canada joined the North 
^erican^rchdiocese. In 1908 Archbishop Platon founded in New York the 

.2AI iJiU 




Russian Lnmigrants' House, and in 1911 began the publication of a news- 
paper in the Russian language, "The Russian Immigrant," founded the 
Society of Orthodox Zealots in North America, transferred from Minnea- 
polis to Tenafly, New Jersey, the Ecclesiastical Seminary, and built for 
it a church in honour of the Venerable Platon Studisky. He also created, 
with the financial help of the American millionaire, Charles R. Crane, 
a first-class Russian Orthodox choir, which on a tour of the United 
States met with great success everywhere and which was invited to a 
special concert in the White House in the spring of 1914 attended by 
President Wilson, his cabinet ministers, their families and special 
guests. Archbishop Platon also made three extensive trips through the 
archdiocese, visiting Alaska in 1910 and 1911 and Canada in 1912. It 
was with great sadness that the Russians of North America bade farewell 
to Archbishop Platon when he returned to Russia in the spring of 1914 
to become Archbishop of Kishinev, not foreseeing that he was to return 
after the revolution and to head once more the Russiaji Orthodox faithful 
in the New World. 

His successor, appointed on the 11th of August, 1914, Bishop 
Evdokim (Meshchersky), arrived in New York only in 1915 because of the 
difficulties of travel incident to the outbreak of the First World War, 
During his administration the first Russian women's college was opened 
in Brooklyn (it existed until 1921). In the same year of 1915 he assisted 
personally at the blessing of the first Russian Orthodox women's monastery 
in Springfield, Vermont. In 1916 Bishop Alexander of Alaska was appointed 
the first Bishop of Canada with residence in Winnipeg. Through his ef- 
forts the Russian parish in Toronto was revived and a church built on 
the corner of Royce Avenue. During the same year representatives of the 
Russian Orthodox Church in North America were invited for the first time 
to participate at the General Synod of the Episcopal Church. During 
the three years of Archbishop Evdokim' s administration, 53 new parishes 
in the United States and 11 in Canada were formed, which is an indication 
of the considerable growth of church life among the Russian Orthodox on 
this continent. 

But then came the revolution. In July 1917 Archbishop Evdokim 
returned to Russia to take part in the Church Council and did not return 
to America. The archdiocese was administered temporarily by Bishop 
Alexander of Canada as the senior among the vicars. Notwithstanding the 
restoration of the Russian Patriarchate and the election on the 18th of 
November, 1917, of Archbishop Tikhon (then Metropolitan of Moscow; as 
the first Patriarch of All Russia in two-hundred years, it was becoming 
increasingly difficult for the Russian Church in North America to pursue 
its spiritual mission. Civil war was raging in Russia and communication 
with the Mother Church was becoming more and more difficult to maintain. 
At the same time, bolshevik propaganda of godlessness was finding ad- 
herents among the Russians in North America. In particular, the majority 
of parishioners in Toronto espoused atheism, and in 1919 forced the sale 
of the church for a quarter of its cost. Thereafter the parish in Toronto 
ceased to exist. It is difficult to ascertain how many such instances took 



place, but their niimber must have been considerable. At the time of 
the revolution, the North American archdiocese comprised 217 churches 
with 201 priests and four ordained monks in the United States, and 53 
churches with 43 priests and three ordained monks in Canada. In ad- 
dition, under the jurisdiction of the archdiocese were three missions: 
Albanian with four churches and five priests, Syrian with 23 churches 
and 23 priests, and Serbian with 19 churches and 1? priests. 

In view of the events taking place in Russia and the neces- 
sity to reorganize church life undermined by the revolution, a Church 
Council of the archdiocese was convened in Cleveland in February 1919. 
This was the second Church Council, following the one convoked in Mai- 
field in 1907, but it was the first one with voting representatives of 
the laity, according to the new statute adopted by the Russian Orthodox 
Church at the All Russian Church Council which was held in Moscow in 
1917. At this Council in Cleveland Bishop Alexander of Canada was 
elected head of the archdiocese with the title of Archbishop of North 
America and Canada. Thus, in fact, was established the autonomy of the 
Russian Orthodox Church in North America. 

In 1920 Archbishop Alexander appointed Archimandrite Benjamin 
as administrator for Canada, and in the following year the first Russian 
Orthodox periodical in Canada, "Canadian Life," began publication in 
Winnipeg. In the same year Bishop Platon, then Primate of the Caucasus 
and Metropolitan of Kherson and Odessa, came to the United States as 
a representative in North America of Patriarch Tikhon. Unfortunately, 
friction developed between him and Archbishop Alexander, his former 
"right hand." At the same time there was evident a growing discontent 
on the part of the laity with Archbishop Alexander's administration, 
particularly after the defection to the Uniat Church of Bishop Stephen 
of Pittsburgh, who was in charge of the Carpatho-Russian parirhe?. 
Finally on the 20th of June, 1922, Archbishop Alexander resigned as head 
of the North American archdiocese and Metropolitan Platon, as the senior 
churchman in North America, took over the office, of vrtiich he informed 
the faithful in a Pastoral Letter on the 3rd of July, 1922. This action 
of Metropolitan Platon was confirmed by a decree of Patriarch Tikhon 
dated 12th October, 1923, and brought to New York by Archpriest Theodore 
Pashkovsky, who was soon thereafter consecrated Bishop of Chicago and 
later, as Metropolitan Theophilus, headed the North American archdiocese. 

The heavy task of preserving the unity of the Church in North 
America fell upon Metropolitan Platon. At the All American Church Coun- 
cil convened in Pittsburgh in December 1922, he v.-as elected Metropolitan 
of All America and Canada. This election was confirmed at the subse- 
quent Church Council in Detroit in 1924 when a statute for the governing 
of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America was adopted. Metropoli- 
tan Platon applied himself to the task with great vigour and energy. 
He created newvicariate dioceses in San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, 
Unalashka, and Pittsburgh. He appointed Bishop Arseny (Chagovtsev) to 
Canada, vrtio since then became kno;m as the Apostle of Orthodoxy in Canada. 
But Metropolitan Platon had to face many difficulties. First, he had to 



face the pretensions of Bishop Adam (Filippovsky), whose consecration 
in 1922 was non-canonical, for the possession of the cathedral of St. 
Nicholas in New York. But Bishop Adams' move early in 1925 was un- 
successful. Following this, the representative of the "Living Church,"* 
the married Bishop John Kedrovsky, who had arrived from Moscow, pushed 
his claim for the possession of church property in New York. Kedrovsky 
appealed to the American courts and demanded that all Russian church 
property in New York, which included the cathedral, the parish hall 
near the cathedral, and the Russian Immigrants' House, be handed over 
to him as the legal representative of the official church in Soviet 
Russia. The District Court in the city of New York, and after that the 
Appellate Court in Albany, decided the case in favour of Kedrovsky, 
principally because of the testimony of a Methodist minister who parti- 
cipated in 1923 at the Council of the "Living Church" in Moscow and who 
testified in court that the real Orthodox Church in Soviet Russia recog- 
nized by the government is the "Living Church" and not the patriarchal 
one. This decision was handed down shortly after the death of Patriarch 
Tikhon, which occurred on the 8th of April, 1925, in Moscow, where he 
was a virtual pi'isoner of the Soviet government. His death left the 
Russian Church without a head, since the bolsheviks refused to permit 
the convening of a Church Council for the election of a new Patriarch. 
Shortly before Easter of 1926 the court's decision was carried out, 
and the Russian Immigrants' House, through which over 50,000 Russian 
immigrants had passed and from which they received not only advice but 
also financial aid and which was founded by Metropolitan Platon in 
I9O8, was given by Kedrovsky to the lawyer. Fink, as payment for his 
legal services. Thus, Metropolitan Platon was deprived not only of 
his church and chancery but also of his living quarters. He took up 
residence with the cathedral's pastor, Archpriest Leonid Turkevich, at 
present Metropolitan Leonty, head of the Russian Orthodox Church in 
North America. At this junction the Episcopal Church of the United 
States offered to help. Upon the initiative of Bishop Manning of New 
York, space was given to the Russians in the church of St. Augustine 
on Huston Street. In addition to this space, which was separated from 
the nave by a partition and which served as the Russian Orthodox cathe- 
dral for 17 years, the Episcopalians provided also in one of their build- 
ings room for the Metropolitan Council, the chancery, the Sunday school, 
and evening classes for the Orthodox youth. Thus the seeds of friendly 
relations between the Orthodox and Episcopal Churches sown by Father 
Nicholas Bierring in 1870 and cultivated since then, bore the miraculous 
fruit of true Christian charity. 

The third great crisis diiring the administration of Metro- 
politan Platon was occasioned by the administrative dissension in the 
Russian Orthodox Church as a result of a conflict between the Metro- 
no1it;.n and the Archbishops' Svnod. which was fomcd in Yugoslavia after 

* The "Living Church" was a Protestant movement within tho Orthodox 
Church in Soviet Russia which permitted married bishops and which was 
officially supported by the Soviet government. 

nosJ &ioe ■ 





the end of the civil war in Russia and which was headed by Metropolitan 
Anthony (Khrapovitsky), formerly Metropolitan of Kiev and one of the 
three candidates for the Patriarchial see in 1917. This ecclesiastical 
organization came into being when a number of high churchmen fled Russia 
after the end of the civil war and claimed to have the authority of 
Patriarch Tikhon to represent the Russian Church in exile. Space does 
not permit the going into detailed explanation of the circumstances of 
the conflict which aixsse between this Synod in Yugoslavia and Metro- 
politan Platon of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America, who 
held for a while the office of treasurer of that Synod. Under the 
statute adopted at the All Russian Church Council in 1917, Metropoli- 
tan Platon considered himself the head of the North American archdiocese 
and vrtien the Synod decreed his removal from office and appointed as 
his successor one of his vicars. Metropolitan Platon did not abide by 
this decision and proclaimed the Russian Orthodox Church in North America 
as being independent of the Synod in Yugoslavia (de facto it was auton- 
omous since 1919 and de .lure since 1924) . In such action Metropolitan 
Platon was not unique, since MetrNDpolitan Eulogy, head of the Russian 
Church in Western Europe, took a similar stand. 

Following the action of Metropolitan Platon, the Synod in 
Yugoslavia appointed four more bishops for serving the Russian Ortho- 
dox in North America. There ensued an administrative break, some 
parishes remained faithful to Metropolitan Platon, others went over 
to the new authority of the bishops appointed by the Synod in Yugo- 
slavia. Thus, there were established two ecclesiastical jurisdictions 
in North America. However, the majority of the clergy and of the 
laity remained faithful to Metropolitan Platon whom they had known 
and appreciated even for his earlier work, but this administrative 
division continues to this day. 

The fourth attempt to bring about disunion in the church life 
of Russians in North America occurred in 1933 when Bishop Benjamin 
(Fedchenko) arrived in New York from Moscow with the appointment as 
personal representative of the Patriarchial Church and as Primate of 
North America. Bishop Benjamin demanded from Metropolitan Platon and 
from every member of the Russian Orthodox clergy in North America a 
declaration of loyalty to the Soviet government and of submission 
to the authority of Metropolitan Sergius of Moscow, Caretaker of the 
Patriarchial see, who had given such a declaration of loyalty to the 
Soviet government in 1927. Needless to say, such a demand was refused 
both by Metropolitan Platon and by all the parishes faithful to his 
leadership, not only on the grounds of objection to a godless govern- 
ment but also because the majority (up to 95 per cent) of the parish- 
ioners of Russian Orthodox churches were either American or Canadian 
citizens with no right to declare loyalty to a foreign government. 

But besides sorrow, misfortunes and constant struggle, there 
were also happier moments in the life of the North American Russian 
Orthodox Church. One such moment was the recreation of the Russian 
Orthodox parish in Toronto. Bishop Arseny of Canada, aware of the 



aoxTofflA , 





& / 


sricf lo 

•j.i -t J 

,-ar-,^ • 


ariJ 1^ 

/iuMi. U 



religious needs of the Russians in Toronto, undertook the task of 
organizing a prish in that city. In February 1929 he appointed Father 
Alexander Fyza as pastor in Toronto. This is how Father Alexander 
tells about these beginnings in his ovm words: 

At the end of Febrtiary, I arrived with my wife in 
Toronto, rented one small room on College Street and began 
to look for my new flock. The first meeting of prospective 
parishioners was attended by only seven people to whom I 
said that the Bishop sent me to organize a parish and to 
establish a Russian Orthodox church. To this, one of those 
present responded, "We don't need you, we don't need the 
Bishop, and generally we don't need anything." I answered, 
"I don't know you and you don't know me; perhaps I need you 
and you need me." 

Notwithstanding this inauspicious beginning. Father Alexander 
rented a house at 53 Spadina Avenue, bought with his own funds (vrtiich 
were later refunded to him) the necessary ecclesiastical vessels, and 
started the prescribed Church services. News of them spread quickly 
and soon there was a nucleus of a parish. At the first general meeting 
on the 3rd of March, 1929, the first Parish Committee was elected. 
It was composed of: P. S. Zozulia, warden; M. G. Gedeonov, treasxirerj 
N. E. Chernousov, secretary for Russian affairs; and S. S. Cocherya, 
secretary for English affairs. Mrs. Gedeonov organized a Sisterhood 
(women's auxiliary) and an excellent church choir. Father Alexander 
opened a Sunday school for Russian children, and his wife organized 
a children's orchestra. Some members of the Anglican Church began 
to attend the services, among vrtiora Dr. Gordon Heam, an Anglican 
minister, and Dr. Pilcher were especially interested and helpful in 
organizing concerts of the church choir in Anglican churches with the 
entire proceeds going to the Russian church. Thus, parish activity 
began to develop. For Russian Christmas of 1929 a celebration with 
a Christmas tree and a programme of children performers was organized 
in a hall offered by the Anglican minister Dyke. This was on the 11th 
of January, 1930. During the height of the evening Mr. Chernousov 
informed Father Alexander, whispering in his ear so as not to destroy 
the festive feeling, that the church house had burned down. The police 
later established that this was the work of an arsonist, but the cul- 
prit was never discovered. The material losses were considerable, 
because neither the parish nor the pastor had any insurance, but the 
faithful did not lose heart. While services were being held in the 
church hall of the Anglican church of St. Stephen, a decision reached 
in the summer of 1929 to purchase their own church was now being 
actively pursued by the parishioners. The first thousand dollars was 
collected among his Canadian friends by Prince Nakashidze and the 
second by concerts given by Mrs. Gedeonov and lectures delivered by 
Count Paul N. Ignatiev and his son, Nicholas. In March 1930 a build- 
ing for the new church was finally found. It was a former Lutheran 
church at 4 Glen Morris Street. After lengthy negotiations a specially 
convened general meeting of the parish on the 17th of July, 1930, approved 


the purchase for $8,500 and accepted the suggestion of Bishop Arseny 
that the new church be called the Church of Christ the Saviour. By 
that time the services once more were being held in the building on 
Spadina Avenue which had been restored after the fire. 

A great deal of work had to be done before the new church 
could assume an Orthodox character. In this work all the members of 
the parish participated without remuneration, including Miss A, D. 
Biriukov in her capacity of architect and her sister, Miss Yu. D. 
Biriukov as artist. Finally the work was completed and on Sunday, 
the l6th of November, 1930, the new church was solemnly blessed by 
Metropolitan Platon and Bishop Arseny assisted by Russian, Greek and 
Bulgarian Orthodox clergy. During the solemn procession from 53 Spadina 
Avenue to k Glen Morris Street, a distance of almost two miles, the 
Holy Species were carried on the head of Bishop Arseny supported by 
all the clergy and accompanied by a band playing liturgical themes. 

After this event the life of the parish settled to its daily 
tasks. There was always the problem of finding the funds to meet the 
payments on the mortgage as well as for the maintenance of the church. 
The parish started organizing yearly bazaars, which continue to this 
time, providing an important contribution to the budget. The Toronto 
press helped considerably the success of the first bazaar by wide 
coverage of the event which aroused the interest of the English-speaking 
people. But soon came the depression with its unemployment, and it 
was becoming more and more difficult to collect the necessary funds. 

At the same time the revived parish was facing new diffi- 
culties. Representatives of the rival jurisdiction of the Archbishops' 
Synod in Yugoslavia appeared in Canada and appealed to the courts in 
a test case for the possession of church property in Windsor, Ontario. 
This was the time when voices were heard in Parliament against the 
registration of new priests of the Russian Orthodox Church in North 
America, even threatening to cancel the rights of those priests already 
registered if the court action in Windsor were to be decided in favour 
of the rival jurisdiction. But upon evidence presented to the court, 
the decision was in favour of the Russian Orthodox Church in North 
America and the threat was over. 

On the 20th of April, 1934, Metropolitan Platon died, after 
fighting to the end for the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church in 
North America. As his successor the All American Church Council in 
Cleveland on the 21st of November, 1934, elected Bishop Theophilus 
(Pashkovsky), at that time Bishop of San Francisco and formerly of 
Chicago. The new head of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America 
pursued the great work of Metropolitan Platon, notwithstanding the 
growing difficulties. 

And in Toronto, changes were about to occur. The parish had 
opened in the parish hall in the basement of the church building, a 
dining room for unemployed in which during two winters an average of 
35 people were fed daily without any charge. But as the effects of 



unemployment touched more and more people, the zeal of the parishioners 
became dulled. Father Alexander also felt tired, having served by now 
seven years in Toronto and having been instrumental in creating a parish its ovm church. Consequently, he requested that he be transferred 
to another parish. At the beginning of AprU 1936, Father Alexander 
Pyza, the pioneer, received an appointment to Detroit and left for his 
new place of service at the end of that month with the good \d.shes of 
all the parishioners of the Church of Christ the Saviour. On the 15th 
of November, 1936, a new pastor. Father Leo Silkin, arrived in Toronto, 
and on the 14th of January, 1937, with the recall of Bishop Arseny, the 
Toronto parish was placed under the direct supervision of the Metropoli- 
tan, in which situation it remained for 15 years. 

In 1936 through the good offices of Patriarch Barnaby of Serbia 
^ "todus Vivendi was worked out between the Archbishops' Synod and Metro- 
politan Theophilus, who journeyed to Yugoslavia for that purpose. An 
agreement entitled "Temporary Statute for the Administration of the Rus- 
sian Orthodox Church" was adopted in 1937 at the All American Church 
Council in Pittsburgh in which representatives of both jurisdictions 
participated with equal rights. For the time being the bitter rivalry 
between the two jurisdictions was ended. But this truce lasted only 
until 1946. 

In 1938 the Russian Orthodox Church celebrated widely the 950th 
anniversary of the Christianization of Russia by Saint Vladimir. On the 
3rd of October of the same year the North American Russian Orthodox 
Ecclesiastical Seminary, transferred from Tenafly, New Jersey, and com- 
pletely reorganized, was formally opened as a department of Columbia 
University in New York and was renamed in honour of Saint Vladimir, 

Meanwhile in Toronto the successors of Father Alexander Pyza 
did not seem to find a conunon ground with the parishioners. At the end 
of 1939 Father Leo Silkin was succeeded by Father Alexander Lisin, who 
in turn was succeeded in June 1940 by Father Khariton Velma. Finally 
on the 9th of March, 1941, the present pastor. Father John Diachina, 
was appointed. 

With the entrance of the Second World War into its second phase 
after the invasion of the territory of the Soviet Union by Germany on 
the 22nd of June, 1941, the emotional life of many Orthodox Russians in 
North America suffered severe upheavals. Influenced by a mistaken feel- 
ing of patriotism which, contrary to any sane reasoning, identified the 
Soviet regime with the Russian people, many Russians began to defend 
openly the godless communists as "saviours of the fatherland" and those 
who did not follow this new "party line" were declared to be traitors 
to the Russian people. On the Orthodox Church and its leaders fell the 
heavy responsibility of preserving the faith of its sons and daughters 
and of protecting them from influences which could lead to incalculable 
miseries. The Church as a whole fulfilled its task, even though at times 
individual members of the clergy, not to speak of numerous laymen some 
of whom bore the greatest names of Old Russia, were drawn into this 
emotional current of irrationalism. On the 14th of May, 1944, Metropolitan 




Theophilus visited the Church of Christ the Saviour in Toronto. After a 
solemn liturgy assisted not only by the pastor but by the clergy of other 
parishes, the Metropolitan in his word to the faithful noted with satis- 
faction the presence of representatives of the Anglican Church. 

In the autumn of this same year the 150th anniversary of the 
establishment or Orthodoxy in North America was formallv celebrated in 
the cathedral in New York (built only the previous year) . At the same 
time a two-volume jubilee collection commemorating this event was pub- 
lished under the editorship of Archbishop Leonty of Chicago. In Toronto 
the jubilee was celebrated in January 1945, and on the 26th of May of 
that year a Te Deiun on the occasion of the victory over Germany, and a 
Requiem for all the fallen in the war, including the godless communists, 
were celebrated. 

On the nth of November, 1945, the Church of Christ the Saviour 
celebrated the 15th anniversary of its existence with a banquet following 
a solemn liturgy. The following year was a crucial one in the life of 
the Russian Orthodox Church in North America. An All American Church 
Council was convened in Cleveland with the participation of representatives 
of the Archbishops' Synod. Under the influence of the prevailing emotions 
and in view of the election on the 12th of September, 1943, of Metropolitan 
Sergius of Moscow to the Patriarchate of Russia with the permission of 
the Soviet government, the Council adopted a resolution of submission of 
the North American Russian Orthodox Church to the Patriarchate of Moscow. 
The representatives of the Archbishops' Synod did not support this resolu- 
tion, and when finding themselves in a minority, refused to abide by the 
majority decision and by this act, union with the North American Church 
was broken once again. Patriarch Alexis, successor to Patriarch Sergius 
(who had died in 1945) accepted by telegraph the offer of juridical sub- 
mission of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America to the Patriarchate 
of Moscow and delegated as his representative for negotiations Metropoli- 
tan Gregory of Leningrad and Novgorod. But before Metropolitan Gregory's 
arrival in New York by air, Metropolitan Theophilus, who was personally 
opposed to the resolution adopted by the Council, left New York on an 
inspection tour of the archdiocese. Therefore, the negotiations were 
finally conducted by the members of the Metropolitan Council presided 
over by Bishop Anthony of Montreal, and as could have been expected did 
not lead to any concrete results, since the resolution of the Cleveland 
Council was unacceptable on political grounds, not only to a large number 
of Russian Orthodox in North America but also to the Moscow Patriarchate 
vrtiich was subject to a policy of loyalty to, and support of, the Soviet 
regime. Luckily, this unfortunate measure of the Cleveland Council, 
while provoking the defection to the rival jurisdiction of a number of 
parishes in the United States, did not have any serious repercussions 
on the life of the Toronto Church of Christ the Saviour. 

As the result of cOTunon effort, the parish finished payment 
on the mortgage for the church building, and on the 22nd of June, 1947, 
celebrated this event. Metropolitan Theophilus, who had arrived on this 
occasion from New York, celebrated the liturgy in conjunction with clergy 



of Russian and other Orthodox churches which included Russian priests 
from Montreal, Ottawa and Windsor, and Bulgarian and Greek priests of 
Toronto. Among the honoured guests were representatives of the Anglican 
denomination of Canada. 

As the years went on, the Russian Orthodox Church in North 
America continued to develop on its spiritual and historical path, 
fighting for its unity, particularly against the insinuations and en- 
croachments of the Archbishops' Synod, which was forced to leave Yugo- 
slavia after that country was overtaken by Tito's communists and which 
had selected North America as its special field of activity. In 1948 
the St, Vladimir Ecclesiastical Seminary attached to Columbia University 
in New York was organized into an Ecclesiastical Academy, and in the 
following year of 1949 the missionary school of the St. Tikhon Monastery 
in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, was in its turn reorganized into an 
Ecclesiastical Seminary. 

With the influx of Russians from Europe, many of whom were 
refugees from Soviet Russia or satellite countries, there arose new prob- 
lems which were often difficult to resolve. The struggle for "these 
souls" placed a heavy strain on the head of the Church. It is no wonder 
then that the health of Metropolitan Theophilus, who had laboured for the 
xinity of the North American archdiocese as a priest, as a bishop, and 
finally as the Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church in North 
America, was not able to withstand the pressures of the every-day created 
anxieties. His death occurred on the 27th of June, 1950. At the end 
of the skme year on the 6th of December, the Eighth All American Church 
Council meeting in New York elected Archbishop Leonty of Chicago to the 
see of Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All America and Canada, 
Metropolitan Leonty is still happily leading the flock of his faithful 
of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America, 

During the five years since his election as head of the Russian 
Orthodox Church in North America, Metropolitan Leonty continued the work 
of his predecessors in this high office while at the same time insisting 
on the retention of the conciliar principle in the preservation of the 
unity of the Church. He was able to improve considerably the financial 
position of the clergy, and being a poet he brought a fresh stream of 
poetical spirituality into the life of the Church. At present the 
Metropoly consists of nine dioceses (including the one in Japan) and con- 
tains over two-hundred churches and chapels. It also includes the Carpatho- 
Russian Administration in Pennsylvania and three missions in Alaska, 

One of the first measures of Metropolitan Leonty was the re- 
creation of the Canadian diocese. Upon his recommendation the Great 
Council of Bishops, on the 7th of May, 1952, appointed to the restored 
see Bishop Nikon (de Greve) of Pennsylvania, Rector of St. Tikhon's 
Seminary, with the title of Bishop of Toronto and Governing Bishop of 
Canada, At the same time the Church of Christ the Saviour was elevated 
to the status of a cathedral, and on the 28th of October, 1953, the anall 
Council of Bishops meeting in Toronto decided to elevate the Canadian 


m .r. 


diocese to an archdiocese. This decision was confirmed by the Great 
Council of Bishops meeting in New York on the l6th-18th of June, 1954. 
But for the present the archdiocese is still administered by Bishoo 

The Canadian archdiocese comprises 49 churches and chapels 
including three cathedrals (Montreal, Toronto and V/innipeg) and one 
monastery which are serviced by 20 priests, and which are spread frcm 
Quebec to British Columbia. Since the appointment of Bishop Nikon, the 
spiritual life of the Orthodox faithful in Canada received a new powerful 
impetus inspired and held together by a bishop who yearly visits all the 
parishes from east to west. 

Since the end of the Second World War one could also notice the 
growth of the parish of Christ the Saviour. Through the untiring labours 
of the pastor, Archpriest John Diachina, who celebrated the 25th anni- 
versary of his ordination on the 19th of August, 1954, and of a growing 
number of parishioners, the financial position of the church was bettered 
and cultural and spiritual activities of the parish were vastly in- 
creased. In 1942 the parish bought a house at 5 Glen Morris Street 
opposite the church, which served until recently as the parish house, 
and since the appointment of Bishop Nikon, as his residence. In 1951 
a second tier was added to the ikonostas with ikons painted by the Grand 
Duchess Olga of Russia. In 1952 the parish bought a farm, "The White 
Church," near Newmarket, where a summer camp for children is organized 
yearly by the Sisterhood of the Cathedral and where an Orthodox cemetery 
is to be. In this year of 1955> after lengthy negotiations with local 
authorities, the parish finally received this summer permission for the 
establishment of this cemetery and began the collection of funds for the 
erection of a chapel there. In the same year the parish purchased two 
houses under Nos. 7 and 9 Glen Morris Street, the latter now serving 
as the parish house and the Bishop's residence, and the former together 
with No. 5 being rented as dwellings. It is hoped that where these three 
small houses now stand either a large parish hall or a new cathedral in 
a truly Russian style may be erected in the future. Through the devoted 
work of the Sisterhood, the cathedral has been embellished during recent 
years and through the generosity of donors, new vestments and new church 
vessels have been acquired. At the same time the church choir under the 
direction of Mr. Kuzmenko has achieved real artistry. All this contri- 
butes to the magnificence and beauty of the church services. During 
recent years a Religious -Philosophical Circle was established, at the 
meetings of which talks were given by 0. W. Rodomar, T. N. Kulikovsky, 
V. N. Litvinovich, and others. At the same time a series of public 
lectures on historical, literary and general subjects were delivered 
by Professor N. S. Arseniev, Professor L. I. Strakhovsky, M. F. Maruta, 
V, E. Ogorodnikov and others. 

Having completed twenty-five years since the blessing of the 
Church of Christ the Saviour, its parishioners together with their Pastv 
and their Governing Bishop look into the future with faith and hope. 
Be their future journey on Christ's path easier and their burden lighter 
and may the Lord bless their life and labours far from the fatherland of 
their origin but close in the bosom of the true Russian Orthodox Church.